October 21, 2021

Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos about fact-checking platforms in Central Africa: “The goal is a responsible journalism”

MEDAS21 fellow Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos has been interviewed by Inga Dreyer from the science communication platform “Wissenschaftskommunikation.de” about her research findings. In the interview, Ortiz dos Santos gives an insight into the work of two fact-checking platforms she studied, Congo Check and Talato, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. What problems can be identified in terms of gathering information about Corona? How does the media system influence the news coverage? The whole interview can be found here.


September 06, 2021

Michel Leroy, Mira Keßler and Ines Drefs present at ECREA 2021

Three members of MEDAS 21 will speak live at the 8th ECREA European Communication Conference which takes place online from Sep 6-9. Thematically, the ECREA Conference revolves around questions such as: What is the role of media and communication in the future? What kind of social, political and cultural futures are brought about and modelled by media and communication? What are the relationships between them and what are their main normative cornerstones? Numerous academics are invited to question and discuss together the relevance of communication studies in the face of the societal challenges of today and for generations to come. Michel Leroy, Mira Keßler and Ines Drefs will also participate and present their perspectives and research findings on international media development in the 21st century to registered participants:


Tuesday, September 7th, 09:00-10:30, Room 14

Michel Leroy: "In Future We Trust: Sustainability of community radio in developing countries and its interaction with professionalization"


Thursday, September 9th, 11:00-12:30, Room 8 

Mira Keßler: "Power and diversity in the “classroom”. A look at differences in journalism trainings as part of Media Development."


Thursday, September 9th, 15:00-16:30, Room 15

Ines Drefs: "International media development: Modelling the practices of funders, intermediary organisations and local partners based on organizational institutionalism"


Further information on the conference and the programme: https://www.ecrea2021.eu/



July 27, 2021

Autumn School "Disrupted Ethnography" to be held in Bochum and online on October 20/21: Applications accepted until August 15

Last December, MEDAS 21 fellow Mira Keßler has been granted financial support of nearly 10,000€ for her autumn school on “Disrupted Ethnography”. She had successfully applied to Ruhr University Bochum Research School’s funding scheme “PR.INT Event” which is supported by Germany’s Excellence Initiative [DFG GSC 98/3].

Together with co-organizers Sarah Rüller and Konstantin Aal (both University of Siegen), Mira Keßler is pleased to announce and invite to their practical Autumn School titled „Disrupted Ethnography - Building Trust, Telling Stories, Unpacking Concepts and Reporting from Within". It will take place as a hybrid event on October 20/21, 2021, at the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany, and online.


Interested to take part? 

The organizers invite advanced Master students, doctoral and postdoctoral researchers as well as media practitioners, journalists, and activists who are interested to take part in the Autumn School to submit their application by August 15, 2021. Participation is free of charge. Detailed information about the application process can be found at: https://disrupted-ethnography.org/


The guiding questions for the event are: What can (academic) researchers and practitioners learn from one another when it comes to methodological challenges and obstacles in fieldwork? How do we move beyond practices that are established but do not serve us – as researchers, filmmakers, storytellers, activists, or journalists? 


Thinking out of the box

Together with selected participants Keßler, Rüller and Aal want to “think out of the box” by starting a dialogue between (future) researchers and media practitioners who have comparable ways of working ethnographically in a field, and who are confronted with similar challenges and levels of disruption, such as travel restrictions, gaining and maintaining field access, finding contacts and forging cooperation, as well as ethical questions of representation of social life and scenes of conflict and injustice.



July 16, 2021

MEDAS 21 Fellows give a panel presentation at IAMCR 2021 on July 13

This year’s conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) was a hybrid event with plenary sessions in Nairobi and a variety of online sessions. One of the latter was a panel presentation successfully submitted by the MEDAS 21 Fellows to the working group on “Media Sector Development”. Here's the key information:


IAMCR PANEL PRESENTATION “Reconceptualizing the Field of Media Development”
Tuesday, July 13, 2021, 3.30 pm – 5 pm CEST

Preview of the papers (for IAMCR members and registrants): https://iamcr.org/node/15190


10-minute videos of each presentation are available here: https://www.medas21.net/resources/#videos


On the day of the live panel presentation, the MEDAS 21 Fellows highlighted connecting points as well as tensions between the research papers. Afterwards, they invited the audience to join the discussion, share ideas and connect. Discussant of the session was Dr Michael Yao Wodui Serwornoo from Cape Coast University, an expert on international journalism right at the pulse of the current debates.


About the panel

The MEDAS 21 Fellows combine their theoretical knowledge with their insights from the field – from West Africa to South Asia. In close cooperation with our practice partners, they have been observing current developments in the sector. The preliminary results point at important issues that are already and will in future concern media development practitioners. The contributions span timely concerns such as the challenges of Covid-19-reporting and the quest for sustainability, as well as critical perspectives on public communication in conflict settings, women’s participation in radio and the interactions between trainers and trainees in journalism trainings:

  • Michel Leroy (TU Dortmund): Sustainability through 20 years of media development evaluation
  • Viviane Schönbächler (RUB University) and Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos (University of Duisburg-Essen): A discussion of influencing factors in conflict journalism and implications for MediaDev
  • Roja Zaitoonie (RUB University ): PR or Media Development? The UN efforts on Media and Public Information in Peace Operations
  • Stefan Wollnik (University of Duisburg-Essen): The importance and challenges of COVID-19 pandemic health reporting in Uganda and South Africa
  • Mira Keßler (RUB University): Rethinking borders and boundaries: Differences in journalism trainings in media development
  • Chair: Johanna Mack, University of Duisburg-Essen


June 17, 2021

Join our seminar series "Teaching Media Development“ this July!

We are pleased to announce a seminar series called „Teaching Media Development“ which focuses on innovative curricula, creative teaching techniques and networking opportunities for emerging scholars in the field of media development. University teaching is a crucial aspect when it comes to establishing media development as an academic field. Students from BA to PhD level constitute the upcoming generation of journalists, communication researchers or media policy advisers who will shape debates on how to develop media sectors all over the world – be it in media outlets, NGOs, ministries, law offices, research centers, or think tanks. Therefore, it is hugely important to spark students’ interest in questions of media and development and to qualify them to be able to conduct sound analyses thereof. The seminar series 
attempts to start a conversation about best practices of teaching media development at university level this July. In the long run, it is supposed to contribute to improved academic training of media development experts as professionals who are skilled at thoroughly considering and analyzing local circumstances and developing localized solutions.


Convenors: Ines Drefs, Mira Keßler, Michel Leroy 

Location: Zoom. Free and open to all.


This series is organized by MEDAS 21 and the IAMCR Media Sector Development Working Group



SEMINAR 1 "Media development curricula from around the world“

Friday, July 2, 20201, 1.00-2.30 pm CEST (7.00-8.30 am New York; 7.00-8.30 pm Manila)

Registration: https://tu-dortmund.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4vmnqzlDTDSKfDWEvTjW6Q

Outline: Efforts aimed at developing the media sector are being discussed in university classrooms all around the world. The related courses are sometimes offered by departments of journalism studies, sometimes by departments of communication and sometimes as part of development studies, oftentimes they are interdisciplinary. What are the implications of where media sector development sits within university structures? What skills do teachers of these courses need to impart to the students and how to make sure these can be localized? Is there a canon of essential literature for students learning about media sector development? If so, what is and what should be in there? These are the guiding questions of this session in which course leaders, university teachers and curators of literature collections present and discuss their approaches.


Confirmed speakers:

Ines Drefs (Host)

is Postdoc at the Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism and Program Manager of MEDAS 21. She works towards establishing media development as a research field at the intersection of academic theory and practical application.

Joya Chakraborty

is Professor and Head Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Tezpur University, India. Her research interests include exploring the social and cultural implications of ICTs and e-governance projects in India. She is also interested in understanding how different forms of communication and media technologies impact the empowerment and participation of marginalized communities including children and other vulnerable groups within development processes. Dr. Chakraborty has coordinated various projects in collaboration with UNICEF to advance the scope of C4D as a domain of academic training, research and professional competence in India. She is also the coordinator of the first two-year full time MA in Communication for Development (C4D) programme being offered by Tezpur University in India.

Christoph Dietz

is deputy managing director at the Catholic Media Council, a non-profit consultancy, for communications and media in the Global South, based in Aachen, Germany. Until 2018, he was coordinator of the Forum Media and Development, a network of 30 NGOs in German-speaking countries committed to international media development. Over the past 20 years, he has systematically collected literature on international media assistance, development communication and media landscapes in Africa, Latin America and Asia (currently 18,000 titles, https://camecolibrary.faust-web.de). In 2021, Mr Dietz will develop a new database in collaboration with the Institute for Communication and Media Studies at Leipzig University. Named "commbox.org", the database will provide practitioners easy access to grey literature and facilitate academic research.

Winston Mano

is a Reader and a member of the University of Westminster's top-rated Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI). He is also a Course Leader for the MA in Media and Development and the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of African Media Studies.

viola milton

is Professor at the Department of Communication Science at the University of South Africa where she teaches "Media Studies".  She has helped develop the "Media Studies" degree at University of Pretoria and is Executive Editor for the oldest South African journal in Communication Studies, entitled “Communicatio: South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research”. 



SEMINAR 2 "Creating opportunities for the next generation: speed date with media development PhD students!“

Friday, July 9, 20201, 1.00-2.30 pm CEST (7.00-8.30 am New York; 7.00-8.30 pm Manila)

Registration: https://tu-dortmund.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUuf-qrqzosGdMF9_k17P-u4roZuVDCvlS3%20

Chair: Michel Leroy (MEDAS 21/Erich Brost Institute)

Outline: Twelve early-career researchers and PhD fellows from four different continents (Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, France, Germany, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Philippines, DRC, USA) working on media development issues will participate in this first online speed-dating session. In a maximum of three minutes, they will present their research, their difficulties and the pressures they face. The aim of this session is to provide a framework for peer networking. It is an opportunity for young researchers from the "North" and the "South" to network and meet with practitioners and established researchers to express their concerns and difficulties such as (but not limited to) choosing a relevant topic, grant and funding issues, access to data and literature... An informal atmosphere will ensure equality, caring and respect. If you would like to attend the conference and participate in the conversation, register now!

More information on the session below at:


Confirmed speakers:

Pragyaa Chandel (India)

She studies at Dublin City University, Ireland. Her PhD deals with “Digital Harassment of women journalists”, with India as a case study. The design of her research is inspired by theoretical framework of standpoint theory that draws its origin from feminist epistemology.

Simon Mangon

A PhD student at Sciences Po Aix-en-Provence, Southern France, he deals with media development in the Arab World after the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011. His research aims at “analyzing ‘media dev’ from its making to its transformation. The case study of French support to Jordanian and Tunisian media”.

Sita Diallo Traore (Burkina Faso)

She is a PhD student at the Norbert-Zongo University in Koudougou, the country's third largest city in terms of population, in the central west. Her research addresses “the social representations of print journalists on sustainable development (SD) and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. 

Antonia Mielke Möglich (Germany)

She is an MA student, working on a thesis on Education for Sustainable Development and specifically on “the role of emotional competence training in achieving the SDGs” at the University of Leipzig, in the state of Saxony, Eastern Germany.

Daniel Fritz Silvallana (Philippines) 

A faculty at Davao del Norte State College in Panabo City (in the southern island of Mindanao), he aims to evaluate the media’s role when it comes to conflict dynamics in the Philippines."

Mayara da Costa e Silva (Brazil)

She is a PhD fellow at the University of Brasília, the federal capital. Her thesis in Social Communication tries to understand how the audiences who consume news on digital social networks perceive the practices of interactivity and participation.

Rousbeh Legatis (Colombia)

A German citizen, he studied at both Leibnitz University in Hannover (Germany, Vordiplom) and Free University (Freie Universität Berlin, FU; Diplom in Politikwissenschaften). Currently a doctoral candidate (MPhil) in Political Science at the University of London, his thesis is entitled “Peace and memory as interrelated social constructs in conflict transformation: the role of media and journalists as memory agents in dealing with the past processes (Colombia-Uganda)”

Angela Woodall (USA)

A Columbia Journalism School Communications PhD fellow, her focus is on “assessing platform governance of access through policy and API affordances”, API being software protocols that control third-party access to data. She expands on how platform governance links to larger cultural, political, economic, and ecological systems as it relates to media sector development.

Claudine Bonsoy Lunga (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Located at UCL in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium), she is working on “Information and education in the age of social network: foundations of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in the DRC”.


Wisnique Panier (Haiti)

He was awarded the doctoral degree a few weeks ago at Laval University (Québec, Canada). His research focuses on “The transformations of the Haitian radio system from 1960 to 2020: Change and continuity”.


Olusegun Joel Titus (Nigeria)

He has spent his first year as a PhD fellow at the University of Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain. He is interested in “an eco-evolutionary exploration of audio platforms: The use of podcasts and new audio experiences in the activation of youth’s participation”.



SEMINAR 3 "Creative techniques in classroom and applied training“

Friday, July 23, 20201, 1.00-2.30 pm CEST (7.00-8.30 am New York; 7.00-8.30 pm Manila)

Registration: https://tu-dortmund.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_bWxky1Q7QZqYSUWx1CqfLw

Outline: The training of media development experts must be ahead of its time to meet future challenges. This is not only about technical innovation, big data, and new ways of storytelling. It is also about a creative approach to educational content and teaching methods. Here it is important to note that media development is on the one hand based at a university level; on the other hand, it is based on practical trainings. For this reason, it is our aim to connect scholars with practitioners, if both hearts are not already in one chest. For both realms, creativity means innovation by using imagination and critical thinking. Breaking free from repetition and simple reproduction clears the way for new development and implementation approaches. It is important to us to bring different experts together, different in the sense of different living and working environments, different institutions, and different experiences with their own best practices. Our guiding questions for this multi-disciplinary panel on “creative teaching techniques” are: When and why do we need to be creative for teaching media development? How could this creativity look like?


Confirmed speakers:

Mira Keßler (Host)

holds an M.A. in Media Studies from Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen. She also worked as a filmmaker, media educator and journalist. Her research interests include journalism training, research on differences, constructive approaches, teaching & education, (cross-cultural) communication, identity, postcolonialism, de-westernisation, ethnography and qualitative methods.

Linje Manyozo

is a student of the human condition, whose communication for development praxis involves working with participatory processes to empower people to co-design sustainable development interventions. Linje's transformative pedagogy and research actively intervene in the class contestation of power during the confusion, the violence, the deception and the bullshit that oftentimes govern the official production and integration of citizen voices in development policy formulation and implementation. His publishing portfolio includes books and articles on media, communication and development.

Saleh Masharqeh

is a lecturer at the Media Department of Birzeit University. He was a learning designer, and academic supervisor for “Birzeit Diploma for digital media” 2019-2021. He is also a trainer at the Media Development Center (BZU), with training topics such as: “news writing, media literacy, media ethics and codex, verification in new media, gender topics in journalism”. As a columnist and editor, he has 22-year experience at the Palestinian media. Saleh was a coordinator of research and policies unit at MDC: He supervised during 2014-2018 a series of media research and in his unit, he produced 12 research and 6 policy papers about contemporary media topics. As a coordinator of “media – education component” at the National Media initiative hosted by the MDC, 6 of his curricula for teaching media were adopted in many Palestinian Universities (2015-Now).

Martin Scott

is a Senior Lecturer in Media and International Development at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK. He is the author of 'Media and Development' (Zed Books 2014) and has written numerous journal articles on international journalism, politics and popular culture, celebrities and development and more. His current research is on international advocacy for media freedom.

Mary Mayers

is a British freelance consultant specialising in communication and media for development. Her core interest is radio for development in Africa. She has more than 20 years' experience of field-work in Africa and extensive experience in qualitative monitoring and evaluation and a doctorate in development communications. Mary provides a range of support to the media-development sector, specialising in radio in Africa, freedom of expression and media for good governance, ICTs and behaviour-change communications. She does evaluation studies, reviews, feasibility studies, training and facilitation, research, mentoring, writing and editing. She also occasionally publishes in academic journals and is available as a visiting speaker. 

Usha Raman

is Professor, Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad. Her academic interests span journalism pedagogy, cultural studies of science, health communication, children's media, feminist media studies, and digital cultures. Before joining the University, she headed the communications department at L V Prasad Eye Institute. In addition to several journal articles and book chapters, she writes regularly for the popular media on issues related to health, gender and education. She currently is a columnist for The Hindu, and edits a monthly magazine for school teachers, called Teacher Plus. Usha received her doctorate in mass communication from the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA, in 1996. She has been a visiting fellow at the University of Sydney (Australia), MIT (USA) and University of Bremen (Germany). As co-PI of the IDRC funded initiative FemLab.co, she is studying the gender dimensions of labour in a digital economy. She is currently serving as the Vice President of the International Association for Media and Communication Research.


June 6, 2021

First speed-dating session with PhD students working on media development on July 9 - Register now!

This year, as part of the IAMCR pre-conference events, the media sector development working group and MEDAS21 invite 12 PhD students from 4 different continents (Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, DRC, France, Germany, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Philippines, USA) and working on media development issues to an online “speed-dating session.” By offering emerging scholars the opportunity to present their research in a 3-minute-thesis format and get feedback from their peers and industry professionals, we hope to contribute to intensified exchange and networking and to develop practical coping mechanisms for any difficulties and pressures they face in their research. 
 The selection process is now over but it's time to register to attend the session!


Here‘s the key information:


Within the relatively new working group focusing on efforts of shaping and developing media systems, early-career scholars sometimes feel isolated or feel that professional connections in the sector are difficult to establish. The aim of this session is to provide an opportunity for early-career scholars to build their networks. It is an opportunity for junior scholars from the “Global North“ and “South“ to meet with practitioners and senior researchers to voice their concerns and challenges such as (but not limited to) choosing a relevant topic, grants and funding issues, access to data and literature... An informal atmosphere will ensure equality, caring and respect.



What topics are under-researched in the field of media sector development today? What are the most pressing challenges for getting early-career researchers and professionals in the sector to work together? In a casual format similar to “speed dating”, postgraduate and doctoral students will be able to propose their answers to these questions and convey them to their peers by presenting their research (project) to the audience in 3 minutes maximum. These contributions will finally be taken up and discussed in a debate with representatives of academic institutions and media development organisations. Those who cannot attend the discussion can contribute to the debate by sending a poster (in PDF format) presenting their project and its issues, to be published on a dedicated webpage.


Important dates

  • May 20, 2021: Launch of the call for proposal
  • June 21, 2021: Deadline for submitting a proposal (3-minute live talk or a poster)
  • June 30, 2021: Notification of acceptance
  • July 9, 2021: Live event on Zoom


May 18, 2021

Three questions to Johanna Mack about her practice stay at Deutsche Welle Akademie

Source: private


From September 2020 until March 2021, MEDAS 21 Fellow Johanna Mack spent six months working with her practice partner. In this interview, she talks about what she learned during this time and how it can help her for her doctoral project.


Johanna, during your practice stay at Deutsche Welle Akademie you worked from home due to the pandemic. What was the situation like for you?

Working from home has fundamentally changed a lot of things for me. I would have loved to be on site in Bonn or Berlin. But working remotely also had its advantages: I was able to get insights into many areas that I would not have had as much access to in an analogue way. The work processes have been redesigned and adapted to the new conditions. I took part in a "check-in meeting" every morning. I mostly worked with the team "Research and Evaluation", but I was also able to visit other teams within the department Policy and Learning and to get a taste of the work of the country teams, for example in the regions Asia, Africa and the Middle East/ North Africa. I also presented my doctoral project and got feedback from my team. All in all, the time at Deutsche Welle Akademie was great!


What new insights did you gain during this time about media systems in unstable contexts?

I do not have all the data together yet. But so far, I can say that it would be helpful to reflect on the fact that our understanding of what media systems are and how they should be, is contextualized. For example, theories about media systems tend to come from Western contexts. And this understanding of concepts shapes development efforts and vice versa. In a country like Guinea-Bissau, where many people cannot read and access to important digital infrastructure is lacking, communication channels outside the mass media are highly interesting. It is important to look at how people communicate. Griots, for example, are traditional storytellers who are the “memory” of an ethnic group. Considering such communication structures might offer new ideas of how various media systems might function and how they are influenced by different local and international variables.


What are your next plans with regard to your research?

To find out how media development actors describe media systems, I will contact quite a few media development organizations and ask them about how and for which purposes they analyse media landscapes. Because of the pandemic, it is difficult to plan my next fieldtrip. Luckily, I have had the chance to travel to my case study-country twice already, make some contacts and gain first insights. But I would like to check whether the ideas I developed at my desk at home are relevant on the spot. I also want to meet experts and players from the media landscape in Guinea-Bissau to learn more about the structure and history of the media system than books can tell me and to ask them how they define different aspects of their media system and concepts of journalism. What do they understand by professionalism, for example?


May 12, 2021

Teaching conflict-sensitive journalism to young professionals

On May 12, 2021, Sigrun Rottmann was the special guest in our MEDAS21 lab meeting to discuss teaching conflict-sensitive journalism to young professionals. She offers a special seminar with journalism students at TU Dortmund and shared her experiences and challenges when approaching conflict reporting.


Journalists report on conflicts

“We need to talk about how journalists deal with conflict if we want to contribute to democracy,” she stressed during a 40-min lecture. It is often through quality conflict coverage that democracies are enhanced, she underlined when explaining what conflict-sensitive journalism is about.


“My aim is to provide journalists with skills to produce good quality journalism,” said Rottmann. Before becoming a lecturer at TU Dortmund in 2012, she had worked as a correspondent in Central America, as a journalism trainer and as a London-based BBC producer. According to her, the media construct reality and influence how the audience perceive and understand conflicts. Conflict coverage is the presentation, interpretation and evaluation of social and political conflicts – both those that involve or not physical violence. “It is not our responsibility to fuel or scandalize conflicts,” she added. But rather that it is the journalist’s responsibility to provide extensive information about conflicts so that the public can deal with them constructively.


The Power of words and frames

In her seminar, Rottmann also addresses preconceived ideas and social-psychological aspects (such as prejudices, stereotypes, hidden biases) that may affect the journalists’ coverage and how media professionals perceive conflicting issues.

“We look at different definitions of what is a conflict, escalation, and social change,” she detailed. In order to equip the journalists to have a better and more complex understanding of conflicts, she strives to convey tools used in conflict analysis – such as actor mapping. A close attention is paid to language and images, and to critically assess what kinds of frames are being used. “We look into the power of words and metaphors in war reporting. It is important for journalists to know what frames are, how they work, and that they can be used in a manipulating way,” she explained.


According to the guest speaker, many challenges remain, and more research is needed to inform best practices and foster multidisciplinary approaches to conflict-sensitive journalism. “We need to get more professional journalists and newsrooms interested.” The way forward would be to engage in cooperation on eye level with professionals from around the globe, concluded Rottman.


May 10, 2021

Panel on UN media with contributions from MEDAS 21 and partners

On 20th April 2021, Roja Zaitoonie and Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos held a panel presentation titled „Assistance or Hinderance? Policies, Practices, Coordination and Impacts of Foreign Media Intervention in Conflict-Affected Societies,". Along with their partner Sacha Meuter of Fondation Hirondelle, as well as Jean-Claude Kayumba of the University of Sheffield and Kwame Poku of the United Nations Office for Rule of Law & Security Institutions they discussed this topic with senior scholars, organized as part of a series of events on UN media by the Hub for the Study of Hybrid Communication in Peacebuilding, hosted and led by the Centre for Freedom of the Media at the University of Sheffield.


Roja Zaitoonie presented her previous work on UN efforts on media and communication and their impact on peace processes and media developments. "Some of the peace operations have been criticized for not being fully successful. Media and communication played an important role at this point", said Roja Zaitoonie. Zaitoonie also highlighted the challenges and opportunities facing these operations.


Fabíola Ortiz shared her research on the development of the media sector in the Central African Republic and the role of international actors in the media. She recalled the Rwandan genocide and the time when media were being instrumentalized. Up until this day, this historical event has an impact on the media's core competency: to provide reliable information and facts. Ortiz cites fact checking as an example: "There is a need in every actor that they have their own way of fact checking, against disinformation."


March 1, 2021

Three questions to Fabíola Ortiz about her remote cooperation with Internews in Central African Republic

MEDAS 21 Fellow Fabíola Ortiz dos Santos recently started to work with her practice partner - remotely. In this interview she tells us about her involvement in a training workshop on fact-checking techniques with journalists from Central Africa and her hopes of being able to meet them in person someday soon.   

Impressions from Bangui: The workshop on fact-checking techniques in progress


Fabíola, given the pandemic you have recently started to work remotely with your practice partner Internews. In what activities have you been involved so far?

I am very happy that Internews has become a partner of our MEDAS 21 doctoral program and that they have offered me the possibility to learn and get involved in some of their work in the Central African Republic. I have recently started engaging with their new association of fact-checkers (AFC- Association des Fact-checkers de Centrafrique) launched in January 2020. Amid its goals, the AFC wishes to contribute to fight against the dissemination of misinformation and rumours; train and educate media actors and young people on the fight against misinformation, mainly in the web environment but not limited to that. After a series of conversations and calls, the AFC coordinator Rocard Maleyo invited me to contribute to the training workshop on fact-checking techniques for a group of ten journalists based in Bangui and in the provinces – a mix of journalists from community radios, online press, newspapers and a journalism student of the University of Bangui. Within the five days of the theoretical part of the training mid-February, I contributed with two modules about phases of verification and on communicating with the audience by use of social media. I prepared the modules and the handouts based on verification guides published by UNESCO, BBC Afrique and Le Monde. I also drew insights from my recent book chapter about interviews with fact checkers in the DR Congo and Central African Republic and from a forthcoming paper on verification experiences on Covid-19 to be published soon in the journal Frontiers in Communication.


Holding a training session for journalists at a distance seems quite challenging. How did you manage?

It was challenging indeed! But very rewarding. I must acknowledge it has been quite an adventure both for me, for the AFC team and for the journalists in the training. I should, first of all, thank the team of Internews for the openness and for trusting in my work. I was a bit worried about how we would manage in terms of logistics due to the unstable internet connection. I was eager to have some interaction with the journalists! My suggestion was that I create slides on powerpoint and recorded on audio for each slide. My colleagues were able to download the presentation and, during the scheduled day and time, February 17 and 18, they showed it to the journalists, slide by slide playing the audio. A member of the AFC team was in charge of conducting the slide presentation and discussing or commenting the topics after my audio. During the sessions, Rocard Maleyo kept me informed in real time by sending photos and short videos to give me a sense of the environment and how the session was unfolding. So voilà, at the end, after some minutes for reflection and preparing the questions, we managed to have a real Skype call of around 20 minutes each day so that I could see all the faces of the journalists and they could see mine. They all had their opportunity to ask questions. Despite the challenging connection, we were able to fulfill our expectations to meet one another and exchange.


You are hopeful to be able to spend time in the field in Central African Republic at some point. What are you most excited about?

I am definitely confident that it will be possible to go to the capital Bangui. Although I acknowledge the challenges regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and the security concerns on the trail of the recent electoral process the country has gone through, I am positive it will be feasible to travel. I am very excited to meet the journalists in person! After many conversations and online remote exchanges for my research, I am eager to finally meet them and continue strengthening this relationship with the media practitioners and as well with the organisations working with media development projects. In the meantime, I am improving my French skills and learning some Sango, the other official language spoken in the country.


February 19, 2021

Ubuntu Journalism and Decolonising News Media: What are the Implications for Media Development?

On February 19, 2021, Prof Colin Chasi (University of the Free State in Bloemfontein) and Prof Ylva Rodny-Gumede (University of Johannesburg) joined our monthly MEDAS21 meeting to discuss the concept of Ubuntu and how it could contribute to decolonizing news media and media development. The historical roots of Ubuntu, as Prof Chasi explained, stems from an African moral philosophy that raises the central question what it means to be human. Later, Ubuntu was interpreted more in a literal sense through the notion of “community” which had harmful consequences during colonial times and poses risks in today’s polarized societies. Therefore, Prof Chasi calls for a return to the early understanding what Ubuntu means, notably a concept that aims at uniting people and bringing the best out of each and everyone.


How can Ubuntu feed now into new forms of journalism or media development?
Prof Rodny-Gumede illustrated how Ubuntu can turn journalism away from confrontational and sensationalist practices, towards a more solution-oriented journalism based on mutual understanding and cooperation. When looking at journalism with Ubuntu in mind, several considerations emerge:

  • Journalism for the “public good”, but who is part of the “public” and who is excluded?
  • Truthfulness and honesty, two key African virtues, regaining importance in times of social media and fake news.
  • Listening, in the sense of empathic hearing what the other says and of showing sincere interest in the audiences and communities that the journalist is covering, researchers are investigating on and media development organizations are working with.
  • Ubuntu as a relational ethic, including the question of how we - journalists, researchers, media practitioners - relate to the people we are working with or reporting on.

The question of practical application is much more complex and depends not only on our own individual norms and values, but also on the structures and practices in our field that affect our behavior and thinking. Nonetheless, Ubuntu as a philosophical ground, can contribute to the decolonizing of news media, communication research and media development, particularly, when understanding Ubuntu in its earliest meaning, as a quest to become more human.


February 2, 2021

“Developing the Media Sector in Peacebuilding Contexts”: Blog post by MEDAS 21 fellow Fabíola Ortiz for the Centre for Freedom of the Media

How could journalists be better equipped to report in a way that enhances the prospects of peacebuilding? MEDAS 21 fellow Fabíola Ortiz tackles this question in a blog post recently published on the website of University of Sheffield’s Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM). Her answer (inter alia): Fostering the media sector as a safe, inclusive and respectful discursive space could be crucial!

Fabíola is a member of the CFOM’s hub for the study of hybrid communication in peacebuilding. The hub brings together researchers who aim to understand the communicative architecture and infrastructure of sustainable peace and the ways in which representational and non-representational communication can contribute to sustainable peacebuilding.


December 17, 2020

How can we enter a field despite barriers?

MEDAS 21 fellow Mira Keßler has been awarded with funding from the RUB Research School for conducting a workshop on “Disrupted Ethnography: Practical Perspectives & Access to the Field”.

Due to the ongoing pandemic and the resulting difficulties for traveling, ethnographic researchers are facing a special challenge: How can they get in contact with the people whose living environment and everyday lives they are investigating without being directly on site? Even apart from the current pandemic it can be tricky to conduct fieldwork due to closed borders, travel bans, and other obstacles in the research fields. So, how can researchers encounter a disrupted ethnography in general? How can they enter a field despite barriers - be it those of entries, cultures, languages, or ethics?


MEDAS 21 fellow Mira Keßler has just been granted financial support of nearly 10,000€ to address these very questions in a dedicated workshop. She successfully applied to Ruhr University Bochum Research School’s funding scheme “PR.INT Event” which is supported by Germany’s Excellence Initiative [DFG GSC 98/3]. Together with co-organizers Sarah Rüller and Konstantin Aal (University of Siegen), Mira Keßler plans to conduct the workshop “Disrupted Ethnography: Practical Perspectives & Access to the Field” in summer 2021.


According to the motto "thinking out of the box", the workshop organizers suggest starting a dialogue with practitioners who have comparable ways of working in a field, such as journalists and activists, and who are confronted with similar challenges, such as travel necessities, getting involved in new life settings, researching sources and informants with the requirement of gaining access to them, conducting interviews and gaining confidence in the interviewees, as well as questions of representation of them and their life worlds. The guiding question for this dialogue will be: What can practitioners and academics learn from each other? What new approaches can junior researchers develop that cannot be found in methodological manuals?


If you are interested in the workshop, please contact Mira Keßler.


November 19, 2020

Workshop with practice partners: Momentum for synergy

On November 19, 2020, MEDAS 21 ran an online workshop with its partners from media development organizations. The gathering was a good opportunity to revitalize our ties and work towards synergy.

Updating the partners on the MEDAS 21 fellows’ research projects was the aim of the workshop’s first part. For this purpose, partners and fellows met up in one-on-one sessions during which the research projects were presented on posters. The sessions’ “speed dating” character led to energetic first exchanges which will be continued beyond the actual workshop.


Please find the workshop posters below (click to enlarge):

The posters are available for download under resources.


The second part of the workshop was dedicated to one main question: How we can make the most of our cooperation? Three mixed working groups consisting of practitioners, professors and fellows tackled this question from various perspectives. The discussions made clear that the gap between academics and practitioners is actually not that big, but that each group could offer their specific expertise in a way that is more accessible to the other. Researchers could, for instance, provide smaller packages of information along the research process (not only final results) and support media development experts with input on possible theoretical frameworks for media development. Practitioners, in turn, could help academics by making their internal data collections accessible which, however, requires trustful relationships and openess to learn from mistakes.


Practical relevance versus academic relevance

The workshop participants moreover scrutinized a mere academic understanding of “relevance”: In the academic realm it is sufficient to look for gaps in peer-reviewed and published research in order to demonstrate the relevance of a certain topic. Yet, consultations with practitioners who are actually involved in the phenomena to be studied could help increase practical relevance tremendously – if only by minor tweaks into the right direction.

Full of ideas and suggestions from the workshop, MEDAS 21 will now make concrete plans on how to put them into practice.


September 23, 2020

Discussion about the evaluation of media development assistance with Nadine Jurrat from Deutsche Welle Akademie

Monitoring and evaluation are indispensable to manage and implement media support in a way that focusses on the desired results and to make outcomes and impacts of activities visible. Therefore Nadine Jurrat, research manager at Deutsche Welle Akademie, presented her organization’s approaches on evaluation during the MEDAS 21 Online-Lab-Meeting on September 23.

How can evaluation be defined, what are the key concepts, what are the main challenges? Deutsche Welle Akademie has developed an evaluation process to monitor the outputs and outcomes of its media development projects all over the world. To really focus on the project’s objectives and to not lose direction, indicators, sources of verification and possible risks are predefined. After a project cycle of normally three years, the first results are evaluated. This evaluation is based on the principles of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (OECD/DAC) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Evaluation (DeGEval), such as accuracy, credibility or usefulness. Furthermore, there are evaluation criteria, focusing on the project and its objectives themselves: Is the intervention doing the right thing? How well does the intervention fit? How well are the resources being used?

In a kick-off workshop, the project team, the consultants, and the external evaluators decide on focus areas of the evaluation or on the persons who will be interviewed. The results of these interviews and the additional desk research are presented in a change workshop to assure that everything is correct and to agree on the recommendations. To foster an evaluation culture in an organization or a project, several steps should be taken into account, e.g. communicating the clear aims of the evaluation (at Deutsche Welle Akademie, the main aim would be "Learning"), making the process transparent, using evaluation scales to standardize the results or integrating the evaluation directly in the strategic planning process.

After the input of Nadine Jurrat, she and the MEDAS 21 fellows engaged in lively discussions about evaluation and impact and thought about ways to consider evaluation in their PhD projects.


September 21, 2020

Three questions to MEDAS 21 fellow Michel Leroy about his research trip to Uganda

Due to the coronavirus crisis, MEDAS 21 fellow Michel Leroy had to interrupt his field trip to Uganda in March. He could at least stay for two weeks to conduct interviews with people working for different radio stations and with the local representatives from his practice partner, MICT. More interviews were supposed to be done, but Michel had to cancel all his appointments abruptly to go back to Europe be-fore the lockdown started.

Michel, what could you still do and find out in Uganda?
I started my field trip in the beginning of March with a tour up-country, to the Northern provinces. Afterwards, I came back to the capital for two days and spent the second week in the Western part of the country. Most of the radios in the provinces face a totally different reality than the ones in Kampala. In the North for example, at the border with South Sudan, there are a lot of refugees and international organizations working with them. The radios are impacted by their presence and try to make programs focusing on their realities and languages. At the border with Congo, hot topics are completely different. When I was there, radio programs dealt with the outbreak of the Ebola virus and gave advice on how to handle the disease. For me, that underlines why the term “proximity radios” is appropriate: The programs take the communities into account, they try to build and design projects and programs that are directly connected to the people.
The equipment is another proof of the radios’ diversity. Some of them only have a table, some garden chairs, and a single mic to do their work. Others – especially the religious ones – have more resources and can work in a fully equipped studio.
Also, people from diverse backgrounds can create radios stations: political leaders, people from the traditional kingdoms or from the main religious affiliations, individuals and so on.
Government officials are aware that most of the radio stations are not that professional but rather amateur. When I was in Uganda, I was given the figure of 312 stations throughout the country and it still increases. Sustainability is really a key issue for the national and local authorities, for the stations themselves and for the whole media development community. As they are considering all the issues that I am working on in my PhD, this was quite interesting for me. On the one hand, there is accountability: the regulators try to find a way to better organise the radio landscape. On the other hand, there is viability: the radio makers themselves want to generate more revenue. Sustainability is a tension be-tween both to better serve the radios’ public service towards the communities.

What are your greatest “lessons learned” during that trip?
Certainly, the most important one is that you need to cross-check everything while on the field. I spent a lot of time trying to find the original sources and the exact figures when I was told anything. The second one is directly connected to that: you need to be humble when doing a study like mine. People spend time with you, they lose some of their time in a way and they provide you with all the information you need. People in Uganda are really open, and after two weeks there, I was aware that I would really like to give them something back. The idea was to organise a feedback-conference during my planned second visit where I could present some of my provisional results on sustainability and revenue generation that could be of some use for them.
And the last one is for sure that you always need to be flexible and creative if your plans crash. Originally, I wanted to do a study on the sustainability of radio stations on a two-years-basis. I wanted to look at revenue generation from one year to another, to see which effects an additional number of commercials could have on professionalization. Now, with the pandemic, it is quite impossible to assess anything in the matter and I have to find an alternative methodology. I will deal with the same topic but in a different and hopefully resilient way!

How did you deal with the interruption of your field trip?
After my trip to the Western provinces, I came back to Kampala and discovered how dramatic the Covid19-situation was in Europe. I was supposed to stay two more weeks, but I decided to change my plans suddenly, as the rumours of a lockdown in France were about to be confirmed. I talked to my family and to my supervisor, rushed to the airplane office. Most of the planes were cancelled. I was obliged to take the last seat of the last plane to Europe before Uganda closed its airspace and I finally arrived exactly five minutes before the lockdown in France started.
And then I was locked down – not only at home, but also in my PhD. I spent time to finalise my literature review and related studies. To be honest, I was for a long time unable to come back to the notes that I had taken in Uganda. There was such a frustration on being forced to leave everybody so fast and to cancel the appointments with the academics, the project managers, the partners... It was only recently that I looked back at my notes and interviews, tried to rearrange everything and accepted the fact that it was the best option to interrupt my field trip. I am still connected to the people I met, and they actually face the same threat. It’s a good way to stay tuned with the evolution of the situation to better plan my coming back.

Michel still plans to go back to Uganda to continue his field research. So far, nobody knows when this will be possible again. The pandemic is still going on in Uganda as it started a bit later than in Europe. In the meantime, Michel works on different options to move forward and meet the deadline for his PhD in two years. 


September 1, 2020

Online collection of university courses on media and development initiated by MEDAS 21 – please contribute!

One of MEDAS 21’s aim is to advance research on international media development as an academic field. A crucial aspect of this endeavor is university teaching. Students of media and communication are the upcoming generation of journalists, communication researchers or media policy advisors who will shape discussions on media development efforts and their implementation all over the world – be it in media outlets, NGOs, ministries, law offices, research centers, or think tanks. Therefore, it is hugely important to spark students’ interest in questions of media and development and to qualify them to be able to conduct sound analyses thereof.

The importance of teaching is clearly recognized by the members of the "media sector development" working group of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) in which MEDAS 21 engages. The group, and particularly its co-chairs Susan Abbott and Nicholas Benequista, is currently planning to make teaching a key topic of its pre-conference in the run-up to next year’s IAMCR conference. The goal is to encourage and improve teaching on media and development by enabling an exchange on key literature, syllabi and best practices.    

While quite some teaching activity is already underway at universities worldwide, there is not yet a comprehensive overview of who is teaching media and development where, focusing on what. To inform related discussions (such as those to be held at the "media sector development" working group’s pre-conference), MEDAS 21 has initiated an online collection of courses taught at institutions of higher education.


Contributions welcome!
The collection is open and can be extended by anyone who would like to contribute to a better overview of existing teaching courses. You can access it without having to log in or register.

We encourage you to take a look and add any higher education course you are aware of here.


July 31, 2020

MEDAS 21 Fellows at the IAMCR 2020

Michel Leroy and Roja Zaitoonie have actively participated in the annual conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), which was organized by Tampere University, Finland, and took place online. The topic of this year was "Reimagining the Digital Future: Building inclusiveness, respect and reciprocity".


Roja Zaitoonie presented a paper on "The Achievements and Challenges of the United Nations’ Security Council in the Field of Media and Public Information" at the virtual paper session of the Global Media Policy Working Group chaired by Arne Hintz from Cardiff University. The paper is available for IAMCR members until 12 September and open for comments.


In the Media Sector Development Working Group, Michel Leroy was a respondent for the paper "Proximity Radio Stations: Sustainability or Pragmatic Viability?", presented by Nicola Harford (iMedia Associates), Mary Myers and Martin Scott (University of East Anglia). The paper is available for IAMCR members until 12 September as well and an extented version has been released by the Center for International Media Assistance.


IAMCR is one of the prominent worldwide professional organisations in the field of media and communication research with more than 2,500 active members.


July 14, 2020

MEDAS 21 joins Global Forum for Media Development

MEDAS 21 is pleased to announce that the program recently became a member of the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD). The GFMD is a worldwide network of around 200 organizations active in journalism support and media assistance. "Joining the GFMD seemed like the most obvious thing to do considering our mission to bridge the gap between academic theory and practical application in media development", says Program Director Dr Ines Drefs. "The membership is a great opportunity to get in touch with practitioners from all around the world and learn from them. Of course, we also hope to contribute with insights from our research." Knowledge sharing among its members is facilitated by the many communication channels that the GFMD offers and not least by its dedicated secretariat. So far, the MEDAS fellows have joined various GFMD working groups (e.g. "Women in Media", "Local and Community Media" or "Research, Impact, and Learning") and look forward to presenting their research projects in member-only webinars later this year.   


June 25, 2020

Media development in times of COVID-19: MEDAS 21 fellow Michel Leroy sheds light on the situation in the Central African Republic

While it is still early to take stock of the crisis engendered by the coronavirus, the outbreak phase of the epidemic is already showing the need to re-examine the sustainability of the media in all its dimensions, as Michel Leroy explains in an article on the Central African Republic, the second last country in the human development index. 


His article was published in French, English and German by the European Journalism Observatory, a network of 11 media research centres in 11 countries, in which the Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism participates.



                                                                                                                                                                                              A journalist from the pool                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         organised by Internews                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             reports from the town of Sibut. 


June 24, 2020

When traveling and field research are not possible - Guest speaker Jignesh Patel from "Alt News India" on creative research methods

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the impossibility to travel for field research purposes the MEDAS 21 fellows were wondering about creative methods to conduct further research. True to the motto "thinking out of the box“ Mira Keßler suggested to start a dialogue with a practitioner who is dealing with similar challenges.


Hence, on June 24th we had an exchange with fact-checker Jignesh Patel from Alt News India, an independent journalistic fact-checking platform. We talked about creative methods how to get in touch with people on the ground without being directly on site. As a journalist and fact-checker Jignesh Patel shared his approach on how to reach out to people and his altnews' collaboration experiences with stringers, locals, activists, researchers and research assistants. He answered our questions regarding (1) how to reach out, (2) how and whom to trust, and (3) the verification of the person and information we can get.


May 14, 2020

Discussion about the impact of media development assistance with Dr Brice Rambaud

Information ecosystem assessment according to Internews
Information ecosystem assessment according to Internews

Internews is an international non-profit organisation that aims to build healthy media and information environments in countries where they are most needed. During a MEDAS 21 Web-Meeting on May 14, Dr Brice Rambaud, the Internews Regional Director for Africa, and the MEDAS 21 fellows engaged in lively discussions about the impact of media development assistance: How can it be measured, how evaluated?


Following Internews, there are five elements of healthy information environments: good information, business models that work, critical assessment, accountability and safe access. Starting with a so-called "information ecosystem analysis", Internews aims to examine a status-quo regarding these aspects (e. g. which information are needed, how does the information landscape look like, who are influencers). Afterwards, the organisation comes up with a performance monitoring plan comprising several performance indicators like the number of journalists trained to produce high-quality, local coverage or the number of youth and women trained in community radio development and programming. Methods like focus group discussion, content analysis or audience surveys can help to evaluate the impact of these measures. 


In the follow-up of Dr Rambaud’s presentation, the MEDAS 21 fellows concentrated on different topics like the difference between the two expressions impact and effect, the possibilities for small media development organisations to evaluate their journalism trainings or Internews’ projects in health journalism. As there are still many aspects to discuss, Dr Brice Rambaud will attend another MEDAS 21 meeting in a few months. 


May 11, 2020

Three questions to MEDAS 21 fellow Roja Zaitoonie about her research stay at Deutsche Welle Akademie

During the past six months, MEDAS 21 fellow Roja Zaitoonie conducted a research stay at Deutsche Welle Akademie in Berlin. She joined the Department of Policies and Concepts, headed by Dr. Jan Lublinski, and mainly worked in the section of Studies and Evaluation, headed by Dr. Laura Moore. 


What exactly did you do during your research stay?

I supported the daily work of Deutsche Welle Akademie in various areas. For example, I conducted a follow-up on the FoME Symposium 2019, for which I interviewed a number of participants on relevant topics, strategies and actors in the field of media development. I was furthermore involved in several studies, such as the MIL-Index Studies, which examine the media and information literacy (MIL) skills of young people in low-income countries. I also co-edited the German version of "'Big changes start small' – Stories of people making a difference", a publication that portrays different projects of Deutsche Welle Akademie with a narrative approach on impact assessment. My assignments covered not only scientific but also other tasks.


What was the most interesting experience for you?

It was a great opportunity to work in so many different fields of media development. I was able to see how media development projects work in practice: from conceptualization and funding application to implementation and evaluation. I was also able to gain insights into editing and advocacy work which was very interesting for me. One of the most valuable experiences was to talk to implementors of media development projects on the ground and get to know their perspectives. One person for example said: "Media development has to be owned by us. We need to lead it." That made me think about how bottom-up approaches can be further strengthened.


What are the greatest "lessons learned"?

Academics and practitioners in the field of media development have different priorities in their work: Academics focus on creating precise knowledge on media development issues and practitioners focus on conducting successful media development projects – not saying that one is not supposed to do the other. However, academics need to know the actual reality of media development in order to conduct relevant studies and practitioners can benefit from that. Therefore, academics and practitioners should work more closely together to create synergies. It is also important to develop scientific formats that are more attractive to a non-scientific community – and probably also for the scientific community itself.


Now, as she has concluded her research stay, Roja will concentrate on her dissertation again. She planned to start her field research in May, but she has to postpone it due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At least, she has some extra time to advance her Ph.D. project. The research stay at Deutsche Welle Akademie has deepened her understanding of media development in practice. This will definitely help her to implement a more practical approach on media development research. She is very glad that she had this great opportunity.


March 16, 2020

Three questions to MEDAS 21 fellow Mira Keßler about her trip to Kathmandu - Delhi - Chennai

MEDAS 21 fellow Mira Keßler has just returned to Kathmandu after her two-week stay in India. So far, she has visited media houses and met former employees of Panos South Asia to learn more about their cooperation with donors from Canada, but also about their projects in South Asia. She was able to visit the Kantipur Media Group (KMG) in Kathmandu and went to the photo award ceremony "Nepal Photo Contest 2020". In Delhi she had the opportunity to spend some time at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), which is known for its progressive students. Furthermore, she met and interviewed journalists who had received scholarships to complete international journalism training in Germany and England. In Chennai, she visited the Asian College for Journalism (ACJ) and talked to the colleagues about their programs. She attended a class, which is run by a BBC correspondent, and did participant observation. Moreover, she gained an insight into The Hindu in Chennai, one of India's largest English language daily newspapers. She learned something about the political tensions and progressive opposition to the Hindu nationalist movement. 


Mira, what is your current mood?

After four weeks in here with my practice partner and with so much new to learn, experience and understand, I have to admit that I am somewhat exhausted. In addition, there are the challenges of living and working in a different environment, everyday life and context. But I am very happy about what I experience and learn during this time and I am sure that these experiences will have an effect for a long time and will leave a lasting impression on me. And I am very grateful for the opportunity to explore the work of my practice partner and their network so openly. But this openness also suits the flexibility and the fluctuations of their work.


What was the most difficult experience so far?

For me, it is also this openness. So, when I arrived, I had no fixed plan, be it in terms of time, what to expect or with whom I would speak. All of this happened from day to day and to endure it is the biggest challenge for me. This requires a certain amount of trust and serenity. I also have the feeling that the political climate here is very tense and that there will be little or no opportunities for media development in the future. But I am sure that my stay will give me a unique opportunity to get to know and to better understand the perspective and moods of my colleagues here on site, whether through discussions, publications or the news. And that is precisely my approach.


What are your greatest "lessons learned"?

That openness and curiosity are the best means to explore other worlds of life and work, even if you do not understand the language. And that emotional ups and downs are not bad and belong to it. Self-care is also very important, to hold back from time to time, to go on your own pace and to rely on people you don't know. And I think it is important to get involved with the people on the ground. So, I live with locals and I also meet people from Kathmandu to eat with them, go to the cinema or to explore the city. I also went to a pre-school, for example, as I had the chance. Otherwise I would feel very isolated and too much "watching from the outside".


Altogether Mira will be in India and Kathmandu for five and a half weeks. After her return she has to adjust again and then she will sort, merge and analyze what she learned and experienced so far. Furthermore, she still has some writing and reading to do. 


March 11, 2020

Discussion about media development and development communication with Dr Kefa Hamidi

The research centre “Entwicklungskommunikation – Communication for Social Change” (EC4SC) at the university of Leipzig aims to analyse communication processes (actors, structures, formats) that contribute to social change. During the MEDAS 21 Lab-Meeting in March, the coordinator Dr Kefa Hamidi presented the work of the research centre as well as approaches on how communication for social change might succeed. The three focus areas of EC4SC comprise participation, empowerment and mediation. But what is the difference between development communication, communication for social change and media development? Dr Kefa Hamidi and the MEDAS 21 fellows engaged in lively discussions about this issue. Moreover, they talked about opportunities for future cooperation – the fellows are for example developing a seminar on media development at the moment and could profit from Hamidi’s teaching experience in terms of media and development. 


March 10, 2020

MEDAS 21 fellow Roja Zaitoonie presents the backdrop of her PhD thesis on the Humanitarian News Research Network

MEDAS 21 fellow Roja Zaitoonie has published a post for the Humanitarian News Research Network (HNRN) - it explains the historical backdrop to her PhD research on the use of UN radio in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. The post series is originating from the YECREA section of International and Intercultural Communication (IIC) and the Young Scholars Network (YSN),

which organized a PhD workshop with a focus on international journalism, humanitarian communication and news production at the Free University of Brussels on 30 October 2019. 


February 19, 2020

Training course on sustainable communication successfully completed

The significance of media and communication for the realization of global sustainability goals was recently addressed in a postgraduate course on "‘Sustainable Communication" (SusCom) offered by Jönköping University (Sweden). The 3-month doctoral course (November 2019 – January 2020) focused on the relationship between media communication and the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability. 

Two MEDAS 21 fellows, Fabíola Ortiz and Michel Leroy, completed the online course which was coordinated by Prof Peter Berglez and Prof Ulrika Olausson.

The course comprised pre-recorded lectures, live discussions as well as written and oral examinations. It drew upon the latest theory developments and international empirical research covering the following themes:

  • What is sustainable development? What is the role of media communication? 
  • Sustainable communication and journalism (What are sustainable journalism & global journalism?)
  • Sustainable communication and organizations (The challenges of cross-sector collaboration and communication for the realization of sustainability goals)
  • Sustainable communication as communication for social change
  • Sustainable development and critique of ideology: the problematic aspects of the sustainability concept in media society (a critical theoretical approach to sustainable communication)

Main takeaways
One of the main gains from this course is that there are different discourses and competing understandings of what sustainable development means. The readings and the lectures offered insights on how sustainability is understood in relation to different social layers, class, capitalism and what ideologies appear as being neutral in the context of public information. 

The concept of sustainability has been identified as playing an important part in the “depoliticisation” of modern society. It is often invoked not to question the main power inequalities but rather to prevent the critique of power structures in modern society. Since many ideological discourses develop through relations between various institutions such as the media, politics, science, and everyday life, what became the “non-ideological character” of sustainability and the way it is highlighted in public information have led to it being identified as a topic that allows for avoiding confrontational class politics, instead emphasising collaboration and consensus.


Have a look at
our resources section for more information about the research papers that Fabíola Ortiz and Michel Leroy produced as part of the training course.

What does sustainability mean?

Sustainability represents a challenge to conventional thinking and practice; it is about long- and short-term well-being and bridges the gap between development and environment. 

This concept has evolved since 1972 when the international community begun to explore connections between quality of life and environment at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. 

It was not until 1987 that the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development Our Common Future (WCED) defined the term "sustainable development" as: "development that can meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

That report has been crucial in putting sustainable development into the political arena of international development thinking. It refers to maintaining development over time. There are several definitions of this term and divergent interpretations, though. 


February 19, 2020

MEDAS 21 fellow Michel Leroy became part of an expert team on media development in France

MEDAS 21 fellow Michel Leroy was selected, along with Olivier Lechien and Marie-Soleil Frère, to be part of a panel of media development experts to advise the evaluators of the current contract of objectives between the French Ministry of European and Foreign Affairs and CFI, the French public operator in this sector, a subsidiary of France Médias Monde. Over the coming months, the expert team will meet regularly to provide the evaluators with insight into the specificities of this type of operation and into the challenges facing the media development sector nowadays.


February 14, 2020

Three questions to MEDAS 21 fellow Johanna Mack about her research trip to Bissau

MEDAS 21 fellow Johanna Mack spent two weeks in Bissau and interviewed different actors of the media sector in order to generate basic information about the media landscape. They will be merged in a mapping of the Guinea-Bissauan media system. For example, she talked to representatives of journalists' associations, of state, public and community media, a Portuguese broadcaster and news agency and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office which offers assistance

to the media.


What is the biggest difference between researching in Bissau and

Germany for example?

A practical difference is that in Guinea-Bissau, it is not common to make

appointments a long time before a meeting shall take place. Rather, you just call and ask the people you want to meet if they are free on the same day. Moreover, the practice of journalism and the understanding of professionalism in the media sector is entirely different - mainly because of difficult working conditions for the journalists.


Which difficulties did you have to face?

Language is an issue because many people do not speak English or French, many not even Portuguese, but only Criollo and local languages. In addition, reaching media outlets outside the capital can be challenging. However, all my interview partners were very collaborative and ready to answer my questions.


What did you bring from Bissau?

I brought recordings and transcriptions of ca 25 interviews, as well as the current editions of local newspapers. In addition, the journey allowed me a better understanding of how journalists understand their work in Guinea-Bissau and how the media function there.


In the next months, Johanna will work on her theory and methodology. In particular, she will read about media system analysis and different theoretical approaches to (media) development.


February 3, 2020

Three questions to MEDAS 21 fellow Viviane Schönbächler about her field research in Burkina Faso

MEDAS 21 fellow Viviane Schönbächler is currently spending her time in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Since last November, she is carrying out her field research and her practice stay with her partner organization Eirene. In this first phase of field research, she wants to conduct an analysis of actors involved in local radios and also analyze their weekly programming with a special focus on gender and conflict coverage.


What did you do in Ouagadougou so far?

As for my practice stay with Eirene, I was asked to support their quest for an increased gender sensitivity in their Sahel program. Therefore, I conducted interviews with Eirene staff members, partner organizations, women journalists in the program and radio staff members of nine different local radio stations in Burkina Faso. And I collected more than 150 hours of radio programs. Moreover, I had the opportunity to participate in a regional seminar in Senegal, organized by Panos Institute West Africa, which discussed questions and approaches around gender-sensitive journalism.


What was the most interesting experience by now?

I found it very interesting how available women journalists in Niger were. Within three days, I was able to contact and conduct seven interviews without any difficulties. And despite the bad internet connection and some language barriers, these interviews were very rich and encouraging! The experience of conducting an interview through voice messages was also new and challenging for me.

The seminar with Panos West Africa was a great opportunity to meet and exchange with many women and men who are fighting for gender equality in the media.


What are your greatest "lessons learned"?

Always have a plan B and C and D ready! Everything can change, so be ready to adjust! This is particularly true in a difficult security situation. It also means, to be ready to adjust your methodology to the needs of the research participants. Where the situation is not stable, take concerns of anonymity, travelling constraints, and financial matters serious and be honest and straightforward with what you can and what you cannot do.

And provide for some buffer time! A week can pass very quickly and even though people in Burkina Faso are very spontaneous, it is also possible that spontaneously they will not be available for a week! Thanks to my buffer weeks, I was able to get the data I needed despite many delays and postponements.


Viviane will be back in Germany by mid-February. She plans to go back to the field in late March 2020 for the second phase, in which she will focus on the experience of women journalists in their daily work at these radio stations. And of course, she will continue to analyze the data collected so far as well as her analysis of Eirene’s Sahel program. Moreover, she will finish a draft report, which will be further developed in a next phase of practice stay in August-October 2020.